It's time for the oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up their act. Fossil fuel-fired giants have dominated our electricity for decades and have been allowed to pollute without license. In order to stop global warming and reap all the benefits of clean energy, we must require old clunker power plants to meet modern standards for cutting global warming pollution.
The Gibson Generating Station in Gibson County near the Wabash River is the dirtiest power plant in Indiana based on carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, ranking as the fourth dirtiest plant in the country for 2007, according to a new analysis of government data released this month by Environment America.
Power plants currently do not have to meet any global warming pollution standard, meaning that they are unchecked contributors to global warming. In fact, power plants are the nation's single largest source of global warming pollution.
"Televisions have gone from black-and-white clunkers to super-high-definition flat screens, but they're still powered by the same dirty electricity."
The growing impacts of global warming will impose threats to our safety and immense financial cost on our society and, most notably for Indiana, more frequent and extreme droughts as rainfall declines and warmer temperatures evaporate moisture in the soil more quickly. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, the science shows that the United States must cut its global warming pollution by 35 percent by 2020.
A new report from Environment America, "America's Biggest Polluters: Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants in 2007," looks at CO2 emissions from power plants across the country using 2007 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2007 is the most recent year for which final data were available. The report examines both age of and pollution from power plants to document that we are reliant on an energy infrastructure that is both old and polluting. The key findings include the following:
- Indiana ranked fourth nationwide for the most CO2 pollution from power plants in 2007.
- Indiana is home to the oldest operating power plant in the country. The C. C. Perry K Steam Plant in Indianapolis has been operating for 70 years, built within a decade of television first becoming commercially available. Many of the plants in Indiana are decades old. In fact, 20 of Indiana's 35 plants were built before 1980.
- The Gibson power plant, located in Gibson County in Indiana, ranked as the fourth dirtiest power plant in the country in 2007 based on its CO2 emissions. The Gibson plant has been in operation since 1975 and produces the same amount of global warming pollution in a year as nearly 4 million of today's cars.
"The report shows that America's power is dominated by old and polluting plants and that the oldest and dirtiest plants often go hand in hand."
Nationally, the report shows that America's power is dominated by old and polluting plants and that the oldest and dirtiest plants often go hand in hand. Power plants built three decades ago or more produced 73 percent of the total global warming pollution from power plants in 2007. Older power plants on average are dirtier per unit of energy than newer ones.
America's power is both decades-old and dangerously polluting. We're reliant on technology that's as old as the very first commercially available televisions. Televisions have gone from black-and-white clunkers to super-high-definition flat screens, but they're still powered by the same dirty electricity.
The U.S. Senate is slated to consider legislation in the next few months to establish the first-ever federal limits on global warming pollution and standards and incentives for clean energy. In addition, EPA has proposed a rule to require power plants and other large smokestack industries to use best available technology to cut their global warming pollution when new facilities are constructed or existing facilities are significantly modified.
However, fossil fuel industries are fighting the transition to clean energy. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry lobby group, spent at least $45 million dollars last year alone -- more than $120,000 a day -- on lobbyists and advertising on energy. Earlier this year, they hired lobbyists who forged constituent letters to Congress opposing action on clean energy.
Senators Bayh and Lugar should vote for a strong clean-energy bill that will cut global warming pollution and create clean-energy jobs. Clean energy holds the future of America -- to make our nation energy independent, create millions of new jobs and stop the worst effects of global warming.
In order to realize this clean-energy future, power plants must stop polluting with impunity.
Megan Severson is the Midwest field organizer with Environment America. She can be reached at
Environment America is a network of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations working for clean air, clean water and open space.